Things to do
'Most fantastic place ever'
The clacking of discs striking discs, the song of laughter and an eclectic mix of popular music are all part of the action on Friday nights as the St. Petersburg Shuffleboard Club comes to life.
"Imagine 100-plus people playing shuffleboard simultaneously," said club president Christine Page, 39. "It's a blast."
Seniors in their 80s to the youths of the 21st century generation gather for the entertainment and camaraderie that is part and parcel of a game that's woven into the fabric of the city.
Formed in 1924, the club once boasted nearly 5,000 members and 110 courts, earning it the title of world's largest shuffleboard club. Although the popularity of the sport has waned a great deal since then, the club keeps its 86-year-old tradition alive with a weekly event known as the St. Pete Shuffle.
"Everyone in St. Petersburg should play shuffleboard at the club at least once," Page said. "We're helping to keep this part of Old Florida alive."
Those looking to brush up on their shuffleboard skills or try the game for the first time can join in the fun every Friday from 7 to 11 p.m., weather permitting. The free outdoor diversion includes use of equipment, access to volunteers who can guide newcomers on the basics, and entertainment provided by members who create play lists on their iPods.
The club is in the newly renovated historic Mirror Lake Complex at 559 Mirror Lake Drive. Built in the 1920s and featured in the movie Cocoon, the complex houses 32 lighted courts (65 total) and an amazing old grandstand — a reminder of how popular a spectator sport it was in its heyday.
For the uninitiated, the object of the game is to be the first team to score 75 points by "shuffling" discs down a long, narrow court to a marked scoring area using a cue. It is typically played by two to four people, is easy to learn, fast paced, and can be intensely satisfying as players strategize how to out-shuffle the competition.
Tami Shadduck, 30, became a fan in 2005 when she was ready to rejoin the social scene after returning from a Peace Corps assignment. After one game, she not only learned her way around the courts, she got courted.
"The first time I went to Shuffle I knew that some of my fellow Eckerd College alumni would be there," she said. "Even though we weren't friends at Eckerd, I recognized Josh Wallace right away. We were pitted against each other in a tournament and we laughed until there was a winner."
From that day forward, she and Wallace dated until they married in 2008. Their wedding rehearsal dinner was held at the St. Pete Shuffle so friends and family could share in the activity that brought them together.
For Laura Duvekot, 26, playing shuffleboard was a new experience until last summer. Now, Duvekot and her miniature American Eskimo dog, Theodore, spend their Friday evenings at the St. Pete Shuffle.
"It's the most fantastic place ever," she said. There aren't many places where families with children, retirees and college kids can be found enjoying themselves side by side except at St. Pete Shuffle. There's a fantastic sense of community. I think it's important to take advantage of such a gem."
For more information, call (727) 822-2083.
© 2013 Tampa Bay Times
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